July 31, 2010

The Donut King Restaurant in Ogdensburg, New York



      The Donut King restaurant in Ogdensburg, New York, is a favorite dining place for my brother-in-law, Elwin. We ate there several times while visiting Northern New York in the last week of July, 2010. As commonly happens, local eating spots produce many stories.


STORY ONE: Kim’s Opinion on the Banana Split

     While Kim, a waitress at the Donut King, took our orders, we mentioned that our hometown was near the hometown of Arnold Palmer and Mr. Rogers—Latrobe, Pennyslvania.

    And—“Don’t forget, Joe—what’s his last name? Of the banana split fame?” Monte said. “You know Joe, from the pharmacy where the banana split was invented.”

     Neither of us could pull up Joe’s last name. For the record, it’s Greubel. He is known affectionately as “Ice Cream Joe” in local and far distant areas: I do believe we were first (to produce the banana split),” says Joe Greubel, owner of the Valley Dairy ice cream chain in Latrobe. “I knew Dr. Strickler. And I still regret not having my picture taken with him.* He also owns the Valley Dairy Restaurant in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, where I had the privilege of interviewing him for a newspaper article.


     “Tell him to keep the banana split in Pennsylvania,” Kim retorted.

     This unusual response required an explanation, which I hastily requested.

     “They are not so bad to make, but they are always ordered when we are really busy. And they’re so time consuming to make—people get mad because you’re not waiting on them—instead you’re making banana splits.”

     There was more. “People wait to order a banana split until your bananas are brown and turned into muffins.”

     I was tempted to order a banana split for dinner after hearing these comments, but since I am watching my weight and trying to eat sensibly…well, I resisted the temptation!


STORY TWO: The Ambulance Ride

     While breakfasting at Donut King, Monte, Elwin and I shared conversation with Bea, Elwin’s caretaker, and several other persons. After eating, Monte took Elwin to run errands while I stayed at the plaza to check out the stores. While in the first store, I heard a siren stop nearby. I walked past it walking to the second store, where a woman approached me.

     “Weren’t you talking with the woman at the back of the restaurant?” she asked.

     “Yes, I was.”

     “They took her into the ambulance.”

     I left the store and waited on the sidewalk beside the ambulance, wanting to know what happened so I could have a first-hand explanation for Elwin. At age 90, he could panic if he heard Bea was in danger.

     After a while, the medic came out.

     “Will Bea be OK?” I asked, realizing I couldn’t even recall her last name.

     “She’ll be fine,” he responded. “We’re transporting her to the hospital to be checked out.”

     When he verified that the hospital was in Ogdensburg, I asked: “Could I ride along?”

     “You’ll have to ride up front.”

     “That’s OK,” I said, realizing that he had no idea who I was or how I was connected to his patient. No matter, he let me ride. And Bea? She had no idea I was in the ambulance. Would she think I was a busybody?

     She seemed happy I rode with her. While the staff got her settled, I tried to contact Monte. For some reason, there was no cell phone connection. I asked the nurse if I could use the hospital phone.

     “It’s long distance, even though I am calling someone in town,” I said, grateful she let me call.

     “Monte,” I said, when he answered. “I want you to know there’s nothing wrong. Don’t tell Elwin until you have to. I’m at the hospital.” I filled him in briefly.

     “You are at Hepburn?” he asked, to verify my location.

     “Hepburn??? I don’t know what you mean…I’m at Ogdensburg Hospital.”

     The receptionist glanced at me. “This is Hepburn Hospital…in Ogdensburg.”

     “Oh,” I said humbly, verifying the information for Monte.

     I sat with Bea and her ex-husband who arrived shortly. They shared stories of their daughter, who at nine years old was fatally hit by a van.

     When Monte arrived I was able to assure Elwin that Bea was fine. When we next saw her at Donut King, she told me that when she collapsed, she was told: “You can’t die here.”

     Bea responded: “I’ve been coming here for thirty years and I haven’t died yet.”

     She also speculated that drinking caffeine might have made her lightheaded.


STORY THREE: So Scared She Had Triplets!

     A couple sat at an adjacent table. The woman, in a wheelchair, wouldn’t tell me her name, so I told her I’d call her “Gwyneth.” She related the following story…

     A while back, Elwin had scared Gwyneth when he lost his balance, fell into her wheelchair, and pushed it some the other chairs. When she looked down, she saw him on the floor.

     “Is this going to be in the newspaper—Shhh…” Her fingertips were on her lips. “It’s a secret.”

     She continued: “I was so scared I had triplets on the spot. And I didn’t even know I was pregnant!”

     A short while later I asked her: “Since you had triplets, what did you name them?”

     She seemed stymied, then smiled.

     “Scared, Scareder and Relief,” said the woman.


     When vacationing, I find it more interesting to visit small town diners or restaurants, where the “locals” hang out, rather than the well-known chain restaurants. Although you never know how good the food will be, the stories more than make up for that insecurity.

     In the case of the Donut King, I had an advantage by being there with the locals. The stories enlivened the week my husband and I spent in Ogdensburg.        




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